Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey made it clear to senators Wednesday that he would be independent of the White House and would make legal decisions based “on facts and law, not by interests and motives.”
Mukasey, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would resign from office if ever faced with a presidential order he believed was unconstitutional.
He said he does not believe the president has legal authority to approve torture techniques for use on terror suspects, something former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to say.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the committee, has predicted that Mukasey, a retired federal judge appointed to the bench by President Reagan, would have no trouble winning Senate confirmation “because we know that we need somebody to clean up the Department of Justice.”
Still, Democratic committee staffers predicted tough questioning on a range of hot-button issues — including warrantless surveillance and torture policy.
Democratic senators have said they will demand, above all else, assurances the Justice Department will operate independently of White House political operatives.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, while introducing Mukasey — who is from his home state — said he has already asked the nominee the key question he wanted answered.